Cartoon Darkness Live
Youngblood Theatre Company warms up December with a hot, aggressive little socio-political allegory that mixes dark comedy with darker drama, making for one of the most dreamlike trips to the theater in Milwaukee. Steve Yockey's Cartoon features a range of ensemble characters living under the oppressive totalitarian rule of a precocious girl named Esther. Lindsey L. Gagliano is horrifyingly charming as the adorable little despot and dazzles with the force of authority onstage.
The central allegory about the nature of control is cleverly mirrored in all of the toys living under Esther's rule. Alexandra Bonesho and Sydney Mei Ruf-Wong are perfectly engrossing in studied performances as a pair of anime schoolgirls with mutual attraction for a rock star teddy bear played by Youngblood co-founder Andrew Edwin Voss. Jordan Gwiazdowski is endearingly tragic as a marionette tied to his strings. David Franz and Jessie Mae Scibek play a Barbie-and-Ken style Damsel and Suitor in a hauntingly heartbreaking unrequited romantic relationship. With some remarkably sharp physical comedy, Jason Waszak plays a kid named Trouble who schemes to steal the hammer Esther uses to rule over the characters.
The story asserts itself through a series of very brief episodes featuring each of the characters. The first two episodes are identical introductions to the characters, but once the hammer is stolen, the revolution starts and all bets are off. Director Michael Cotey brings the cleverly written script to the stage with delightfully vivid darkness. From comedy to drama and surrealistic fantasy to a brutally visceral fight scene between Bonesho and Ruf-Wong, Cartoon is all over the place in deliciously dark irreverence.
Youngblood's Cartoon runs through Dec. 15 at the Milwaukee Fortress, 100 E. Pleasant St. For ticket reservations, visit youngbloodtheatre.com.